Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Food Junction at Central Square (NUS)

My one-word summary: Fail.

I know, it is day one of operation. But this is Food Junction. They are not a new-comer, and should have had a wealth of experience operating their other food outlets. It is such a disappointment and anti-climax after waiting through so many months of delays.

Okay, on day one, you’d expect teething problems. But I’m not complaining about teething problems. First up is about space planning. Look at the photo.

There’s just no space to queue. I know, this is day one. Maybe everyone wants to visit on day one. Sure, take away half the people. Clearly, the circulation space is just insufficient. There was one stall where its queue had no where to squeeze but to form back into a service area behind the stall! (Ah… don’t tell me that the planners had the idea to use the service area as an overflow space for patrons to queue…)

Then there’s the “people” problem. I was queuing at this noodle stall. One of the staff simply stood there and did nothing… except just looking. There was another lady, collecting payment and adding condiments. Simple job. The main action rested on the third person… he took orders, he prepared the items for cooking, did the cooking, and practically assembled everything into the almost finished order, short of the condiments added by the second person. Seems like the work load was very unevenly distributed. Don’t they have some commonsense? Particularly the first person who was doing nothing?

Oh yes, I told my colleague about that first person. When we were done with our lunch, we looked back at the stall as we left the place. Guess that? That first person was still standing there. This time he was busy with something… sending SMS. Totally oblivious to the queue in-front of the stall. The boss perhaps? If he’s the boss… then go collect money! At least help out with something eh.

Then, about tray returns. After queueing so long for food, surprise… you also queue to return your trays. Why? The tray return area is so small, there’s just not enough space to put your trays. So you actually got to queue to wait for the cleaners to remove some trays, so that you can find a spot to lay your tray down on. I thought this planning was very dumb, because you just have to look at how tray return was done previously in the same canteen before Food Junction took over, and follow! (One thing quite commendable in NUS is that the culture of returning one’s food tray is quite prevalent… but it is going to get spoilt by Food Junction.)

Just something about the coffee in this place. It is absolutely horrible. Actually, the quality of the coffee itself seems to be “okay”. But the preparation was just overwhelmingly too diluted. You can see it right away that it is too diluted. It looks like the Food Junction staff just couldn’t be bothered about it.

Then more about coffee. There’s another coffee shop (toast box I think, or something of that sort) in the adjacent space just outside Food Junction. Then, there’s also Yakun downstairs. I guess someone in NUS decided that coffee and kaya toast are absolutely the most important nutrition for NUS students.

Next, in today’s connected world… we expect GSM signal everywhere. Not so in this place. NUS buildings used to be more “open”, so the few GSM antennas around wasn’t much of an issue. But with all the renovations going on for so many years, it is already quite well-known that once you close up open spaces to add air-con, build more walls, etc… surely the GSM signal reception will suffer tremendously.

About Food Junction’s pricing. With Kopitiam, there is an across-the-board discount of 10% for using their “privileged” card, or 20% if you are even more privileged. The general rule in NUS, I thought, was a 20% discount. But apparently the discount applied by Food Junction is totally random. Not just from stall to stall, but even within the same stall, the discounts across different items are inconsistent. E.g. at the prata stall, the discount ranges from 30% to 50%. There is onen particular food item that sells for $2 if you’re a NUS staff/student, but $4 if otherwise. (The noodles I had for lunch was discounted 20%.) I’ll really like to know the discounting formula.

Let’s see what other feedback I hear about Food Junction in the next couple of days. In case you’re interested, this Food Junction is at Central Square, or otherwise more commonly known as Yusof Ishak House (YIH), in NUS Kent Ridge campus.

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